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‘Why gay men need to stop crying “gay-baiting” at the first sign of straight male affection’

We can't have it both ways, writes Attitude's Josh Haigh

By Joshua Haigh

So-called ‘gay baiting’ was an issue long before people started complaining about Nick Jonas taking off his top, but recently it’s become an even more divisive issue in the LGBT+ community.

Basically, the issue stems from the belief that many celebrities are cynically trying to court the gay community in order to get them to watch their TV show, download their music or go see them at the cinema – all without showing any actual meaningful support for equality.

Recently Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal embarked on a press tour for their new film, Life, which saw them showing off their ‘bromance’ in a smattering of light-hearted interviews.

In one instance, Ryan ended up joking about the size of his manhood, and in another he attempted to give Jake a kiss, only to be rejected at the last minute. Both moments were clearly unplanned, and simply demonstrated the close friendship the pair struck up on the set of their new movie.

But some people weren’t happy, and a number of gay men rushed to criticise the pair on social media. “Typical gay baiting” one wrote, while another ranted: “Anything for publicity and to get the gay following”.

This insistence on the part of some gay men to find offence in practically anything just makes it harder for our community as a whole to get support when we have real issues impacting us negatively. But furthermore, who are we to criticise two straight men who are comfortable enough with their sexuality to get a little flirty with each other now and then? 

As a community who asks others to accept our sexuality, we have a responsibility to be just as accepting.

Straight men have been acting homo-erotically around each other for thousands of years, whether it’s in the locker room or just in their day-to-day lives. Sexuality is constantly evolving. Such behaviour is completely normal, and for us to suddenly insist that every display of affection is a deliberate attempt to take our money is tiresome. Isn’t it positive that straight men are slowly becoming less constrained by the straight-jacket of masculinity that has kept them fearful of showing even a hint of affection toward one another for fear they might be considered gay?

As a community we’ve still not reached a level where we are fully accepted by every aspect of society, despite huge steps made over the last few decades. The fact that high-profile heterosexual men are so open to showing affection for one another sends out a message that such behaviour is natural and normal, and could in some small way, lead to greater acceptance of same-sex relationships.

But furthermore, why are some of us so angry over the concept of ‘gay-baiting’ in the first place? Celebrities court the public on a daily basis, and now that high-profile, straight male celebrities are finally comfortable enough to strip off on the cover of gay magazines and talk about their ‘man crushes’, why aren’t we seeing this as a positive? Homophobia has always stemmed from the idea that straight men are fearful that gay men are sexualising them – but now we have globally recognised celebrities trying to achieve exactly that. Isn’t that a major victory for us as a community?

Just a few short decades ago, straight A-list stars wouldn’t have been caught dead half-naked on the cover of a gay magazine, but now we’ve reached a point where supporting gay fans is considered the norm. Stars are finally acknowledging their gay fan bases, and yet the moment they do, we treat them with nothing but contempt. 

We can’t have it both ways.

Follow Josh Haigh on Twitter @joshcharles_21.